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Sistren - The Rasta Women February 24, 2005 6:55 PM

Steph --  you asked !!!!

Question: What are the Rastas position on women? What is the role of women in the religion? Rastas are always depicted as male.


Female Rastafarians were never referred to as ladies. They were better known as lioness, sistrens, sistas, or dawtas (McFarlane, 90, 1988). The Rastafarians regard themselves as successor of the Maroons’ freedom-fighting tradition. The Maroons are a West Indian tribe found in the mountain of Jamaica who refused to live in slavery. They were ruled by a former slave woman called Nanny, Jamaica’s only woman national hero. A Rastafari woman is appropriately characterized as a "lioness," positioning rebel woman against the system.

Though the woman represents a delightful pleasure, she also symbolizes a particular danger to men. "Rastafari believe that a woman is of such wayward nature that only through her male spouse, her ‘king-man’, may she attain the enlightenment of Jah" (Chevannes, 37, 1998). One Biblical story of Adam and Eve’s experience is in the Garden of Eden where she gets him to eat the apple. This story is used as an example of what is in store for men when they allow the woman to take charge. Samson and Delilah’s story is another example of why women should not be trusted. Delilah marries Samson, gets him to tell her the secret of his strength, then she uses the secret against him.

During the female menstrual cycle, men are seen as vulnerable. To avoid all possibilities of contamination during this time, female underwear is strictly segregated from the laundry. Only the woman herself is allowed to wash her undergarment. "Menstruating and pregnant women are also thought to have a malignant effect on certain crops" (Chevannes, 24, 1998). Rasta women are not allowed to work in the field when they are in these conditions. They are expected to work in the homes where they do not come into contact with anything that germinate.

Despite all the negative views that are imposed on them, women are still seen as a source of male delight and comfort, they are therefor pleasuring their counterparts. In sexual intercourse men always believe they satisfy the women. She is not allowed to complain about anything that happens in the bedroom. Rasta women get the greatest respect and adoration from men in their role of mother. To demonstrate the importance of motherhood the title "Mada" is given to women who gain the wide

In the early 1980’s Rastawomen began speaking out about the role that they played in the movement. The sistrens demanded more specific responses from brethren, men in the movement, regarding the revision of gender relations to reflect the imperative for female autonomy. ‘A women’s organization concerned with the analysis of working woman’s lives, Sistren Theatre Collective, was unprecedented in the mid-to late 1980s, to say the least’ (McFarlane, 90, 1998).

newpage7.htm respect of their communities, and those who become Revival leaders. The strongest domestic relationship is the bond that is found between a mother and her son, where the highest possible insult to any man is to berate his mother.


The Rasta Women is always evolving! a more Modern Rasta Women is emerging in the Americas....

and many of the old rasta women ways are changing also...

Jah Love

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anonymous one idren......... February 24, 2005 7:15 PM

yes I - the role of women in rastafari has changed greatly over the past 10-20 years, and this is a huge change for the better.  the healing of the nation for real.  here's some more info:

"The perspective here is that the place of Rastafari in a universal culture, a new society, depends not only on it becoming more informed by class analysis, as Campbell contends, but also on the nurturing of the feminist ferment which here is called 'the new Rastafari.' Original Rastafari is uncompromising in its commitment to 'chant down Babylon,' the capitalist system. However, it is bound by the 'capitalist male deal.' Sexism is the key defining feature distinguishing the old rasta from the new. And it is also a fetter limiting the old rasta to a black nationalist accommodation with capitalism. In contrast, the defining feature of new Rastafari is the affirmation that class consciousness cannot exist without gender consciousness.  

This study considers gender and class relations in Caribbean and East African popular struggles during three crises of capitalism in the 20th century. It argues that with the growing internationalization of the world market, capital has sought to develop through establishing class alignments characterized by specific gender relations. Using the concept of the 'male deal' to examine gender dynamics during each crisis, the study concludes that the 'new Rastafari' is part of an international social movement of resistance to structural adjustment and affirmation of a new society which transcends the limitations of the male deal. 

Over 20 years later Honor Ford-Smith of Sistren, of the revolutionary Jamaican women's theatre collective, pointed to the emergence of a secular, new Rastafari. "The culture has influenced many who are not believers in Selassi to adopt elements of the way of life such as vegetarianism, locksed hair (as is worn by the Masai warriors of Kenya), and the use of words developed within the group e.g. 'irie' - all right [Ford-Smith 1987:314]." 

Rastafari is not being treated here as a millenarian or religion phenomenon [Bakan 1990:16, Campbell 1987] but rather as wayof life which emerged when peasants were faced with land seizures and forced into cities, especially in Jamaica in the period since 1930, but also in Africa since the turn of the century. Today rasta is the expression of indigenous people fighting for their rights. It is a global cultural practice, an expression in particular of black people and especially of black women, but one which is also inclusive of radical white women and men. 

New Rastafari came from the old male-identified Rastafari and its antecedents in the jubilee of emancipation from slavery. It came from radical religious movements in Jamaica in the 1800s, from Ethiopianism, Garveyism, pan-Africanism, struggles of 'the sufferers,' and from nationalist insurgency in Africa and Caribbean. It has emerged both from and against these antecedents. The new Rastafari has come from a global fightback against IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programs (SAP) especially by women because SAP hits women so hard [Antrobus 1989:26]. It has come from media globalism and the music so purveyed, from international feminisms, including the excavation of the history of women's militancy and centrality to each phase of capitalist expansion and the struggles characteristic of that phase [Mohanty et al 1991]. In sum, new forces have adapted and transformed Rastafari into a still more potent world movement. 

This paper argues that a new society is emerging from the grassroots of international capitalism. At the forefront are poor black women and their allies who, by pursuing their social aspirations, embrace those of more powerful echelons of what is here called the 'hierarchy of labour power,' which includes white women, black men and white men from the exploited classes. By embracing the interests of all the exploited, black women's revolutionary practice articulates for the first time what Marx called 'the general class interest.' Such an articulation is the precondition for unity across race and gender lines, of the exploited class worldwide. The argument then is that the new society of which the new rasta is only one element, has the practical potential to supplant and transform the contemporary world order. New rasta's prominence derives from its capacity to express the individual's historical connection to other social forces (class, race, gender) locally and internationally. In this way, new rasta has transformed elements of the existing global 'class in itself' into a 'class for itself.'  

A full historical analysis of the rise of Rasta feminism would and include the period before the trans-Atlantic slave trade. However this treatment is limited to three periods: Because the crises of these three junctures were global, a full treatment would draw from all regions of the world. This discussion is restricted to gender in class struggles in East Africa and the Caribbean. These regions were central to the rise of Rastafari."

read the full article here:

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anonymous  February 24, 2005 7:36 PM

'nuf respect to all empresses & sisters out there - big ups for real!!!  for more info, check out this book & links:

rasta women

Sister Carol:  sister carol


the following excerpt is from Horace Campbell's volume entitled "Chant Down Babylon" - published in 1999:

"One of those essays, "Rastawoman as Rebel," is especially compelling with the author presenting an intimate look at a male-dominated movement.

Imani M. Tafari-Ama, the author, touches on sensitive topics such as the role of women in Rastafari and how the male responds to their growing influence.

Tafari-Ama also discusses issues which have proven critical to the existence of the Rastafarian family, including the Rasta woman's growing sense of independence.

"At the moment, Rasta is redefining itself, it's going through an inter-generational change," said Lewis who agreed with Tafari-Ama that it is the woman who has kept Rastafarianism relevant.

"The female Rastas are much more progressive, they're more pragmatic and less doctrinal," he pointed out. "On the other hand, the men have not been on the cutting edge; they have been disappointing."

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anonymous  March 02, 2005 7:30 PM


"I am black but comely as the tents of Kedar. as the curtains of Lolomon."
(Song of Solomon, Chapter 1, verse 5)


The camps were the foundation for acquiring knowledge of the Rastafarian philosophy. Although all the brethren were affiliated with individual cmps, some lived outside the camps with their wives of their queens.

Behind the scene of activity were the daughters of Zion, the Rastafarian sisters, each resolute in defense of her kingman. Some of the daughters embraced the philosophy with fervor and zeal, while others were satisfied just to be with their kingmen. The sisters were a tower of strength in the daily activities on the camps. Among the domestic chores, they were also responsible for educating their children, because some brethren were against educating their children by the "Babylonian Methods." The daughters even assisted in confronting the police whenever they raided the camps. Some policemen were trigger happy and displayed forceful animosity towards the brethren, but were cautious and quiet when confronted by the daughters. The women were also needed to obtain bail for a brother who was incarcerated; usually for possession of ilee (marijuana). They knew how to use their feminine charm to persuade officers to drop the carges.

Rastafarians' idrens had a hard time getting room and board for their families outside of the camps. To get around this, they would send the daughters to negotiate the rent or lease with the owner. If successful, the women and children would occupy the premises before the brother could make an appearance. Many times when the owners became aware of the situation they would give an immediate notice to vacate. At times, the women would lease a lot of land. The family of this property would then call the other brethren to assist them in erecting a wood house. This would incite a groundation to formally christen the premises.

The Rastafarian sisters who frequented the camps in the late 1940's and the 1950's were from various areas. The sisters from Slip Dock Road, Count Ossie's first camp, were Sisters Pam, Shirley 'Needle', Jennie, Katherine, and brother Lover's queen with the beard, Sister Daphne. Queen Baby I from Ackee Walk and Sister Puncee from Clarendon were on the scene. The daughters from Ghost Town were Sisters Dell, Angie, Joyce, Gloria and Madgi. From Count Ossie's relocated camp at Rennock Lodge came Sisters Sweeny, Daphne, Joyce, Dotty, Baby Lov, Mary and Sister Consie. The Poker Flat crew were Mother Julie, sisters Tiny, Wilda, Blossom, Barbara, Maudie, Cynthia, Madge, Winnie, Queenie from Mountain View, Red Top and Joyce from Tower Street. From Glaspole Avenue in Warieka Hills included Sisters Shuggus, Sissie Maybel, Daisy, Big Cynthia, Panzie, Popsie, Mother Theresa, Margaritta, Ruby Juvenile, and Audrey. There were many other Rasta Sister, however these women were pioneers and supported the culture with vigor.

The socio-economical conditions of Jamaica during the 1950's were designed to oppress the Jamaican of African descent. As a result, this stimulated the growth of the Rastafarian movement. The younger generation were looking for an alternative life style to that of their parents. The root of the Rastafarian life style was to embrace and promote the African culture. The organization of the camps were modern renditions of the villages in the mother land. The brethren's attire was the dashiki, which they thought was more suitable for the Caribbean climate. The sisters in their own right, were trend setters. Rastafarians believed that women should exude their femininity at all times. The sisters weren't encouraged to wear pants, make-up or straighten their hair. To accenturate their looks without indulging in the Babylonian standard of beauty, they adorned themselves with head raps, long skirts or dresses made from colorful kente cloth. Many women would sport low hair, which during this time in Jamaica was not an acceptable look for the populace. The constant images of the Rastafarian sistren reenforced the beauty of black women in the Jamaican society. Great Evidence of this was in the reggae music. Black women were referred to as African Queens. They were praised for their natural unspoiled beauty. The society was being remolded. A woman's beauty was no longer measured by the European stardard.

Because of political circumstances and prejudice toward the Rastafarian man, it was easier for the women to gain employment. Many sisters became the main bredwinner in the family. The sisters from the rural areas would teach the brothers how to cultivate crops to sell at the market. Other sisters would weave tams, hats and mats from wool and straw to gain income. A few of the women were performers. Sister Margarita wa an outstanding singer and dancer. Sisters Shuggus and Maudie were dancers with Count Ossie and The African Drums.

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 March 03, 2005 12:55 PM


Thank you. Let me digest all of this. I have some comments.!

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anonymous  March 07, 2005 1:27 PM

Let our African women be free to speak and act.

When you take a very good look at the history of our struggle as African people, it becomes very very clear, that we as male figures, have been quite ungrateful to our she males, when you consider how hard our she males have worked, in the liberation struggle, over the past more than 500 years. It is a burning shame, that intelligent African people, can support the teachings, that a woman should not be allowed to speak in the church, or that a woman is not allowed to uncover her head, are that a woman is unclean when she is seeing her monthly period, how can these things be, when Mother Nature and Father Time, does not indicates these matters as a violation, in any form of their manifestations.

Every single woman was born with their head uncovered, and grow up with it uncovered as baby girls, up to the age of their teens, then they really begin to learn the stupid and stylistic ways of adults, like beer drinking and smoking, and burning off their hair with chemicals or hot iron combs etc.

So if the woman was given her head and hair, by Mother Nature and Father Time, why would she bother to pay attention to those religious Laws, which were created by those people who created religion, for the purpose of making a profit and having control over the minds of people. If a woman wants to cover her head, whether in the church or any where upon the face of this earth, let it be her own choice, not the choice of her kingman, or the choice of the pastor or the choice of Paul, or the choice of the bishop, or the choice of the Rabbi, let it be her own choice to cover, or uncover her head according to how she feels at any given time.

And why is it that religious laws are saying that the woman should not be allowed to speak in the church, when the woman have a great internal teacher inside of her just like the man?
And the woman was also born with her voice, which was given to her by mother Nature and Father Time,
why should she not be allowed to express her self
for the edification of us all?

In the same way that ideas are given to the man, ideas are also given to the woman internally, so let the woman speak so that we can hear from her, and help to put her good ideas into manifestation.

And when we think, of how we all as little baby boys and girls, hanging on to our mothers, and following them everywhere they go, whether they were seeing their period or not, Mother Nature and Father Time, created them to be our care takers, and that they did for the period of time that they were pregnant, and continue to do so, from our day of birth right into adulthood, as long as there is no difficulties, that comes about to prevent this. Since our fathers would have to go to work, and if we just cry out as if we were hungry or hurt, they would rush to us and have us fed, and comforted us, whether they were seeing their period are not.

It is written in the white man's bible, that thou shall not go nigh unto a menstrous woman, now this simply means, that you should not me mating with a woman while she is seeing her period, that is what that mean. It did not mean that you should scorn your woman, because she is vibrating with function of Mother Moon, this is a time that she must be cared for and be protected, until her days be fullfilled.

You mean to tell me, that if your wife is feeling some pain and very sickly during her period, you as her husband or kingman, have the right to scorn her, and walk away from her in pain, but as soon as her period is over, you are ready to mate with again, although you neglected her during her illness?

Think about all these matters and add your own positive thoughts to this reasoning from your own mind, conscience, and discretion. And also think about the great liberation work, which our African Queens, did on the plantation over the 500 year period, since we are in captivity. There was Queen Nyabinghi, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nanny of the Maroons, Winnie Mandela, and all those great African Liberators, who were men, who were able to shine in the struggles, they could not have done what they did, if they did not have some great African women beside them, not behind them but beside them.

I am aware, that these subjects upon which I am speaking, are considered untouchable subjects for some people, but they are not untouchable for me, since I am working for reformation, of the various African Liberation movements, so that they can become effective, where true African Unity is concerned, internationally speaking, therefore, I will strike at the very root and core, of the various contradictions as I see it.

So lets go and see what we can learn from each other, as contoversal as this presentation may appear to some. Africans just should not forget to remember, the great Liberation works, which our African women have carried out, on behalf of our people over the more than past 500years.
Again I send many oceans of blessings and sober reasonings, with self determination


Baba Ras Marcus.

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anonymous empress a the best!!! March 07, 2005 6:47 PM

Gentleman - "Empress"  listen:

Gentleman - Empress

Behold! It is written that a man should leave his mother and klink to the woman him love/

Give thanks fi dis ya empress ina me life oh jah./
She loves ma and she make I satisfie. oh Jah!/
To love her I will make a sacrifice. oh Jah!/
To keep her in my life/

She nuh stiffnecked and listen to me/
She seek only truth and reality/
and when she come ina me yard it is a blessing to me/
and conversation intelligently/
She a the water to my root and she can´t dilute/
She go bear me fruit and there is no dispute7
The jungle my heart she know the route/
As night turn to day no substitute/

Give thanks fi dis ya empress ina me life oh jah./
She loves ma and she make I satisfie. oh Jah!/
To love her I will make a sacrifice. oh Jah!/
To keep her in my life/

´Cause you don´t see me nuh mean I don´t care/
´Cause I can not touch you nuh mean I´m not there/
Allthough we are appart feelings we share/
I´m a man on a mission please be aware/
The road it might be ruff but woman don´t be afraid/
The Journey might be long but don´t loose your faith/
I´m oceans away but we communicate/
And soon I will be home and we gonna have a date/

Give thanks fi dis ya empress ina me life oh jah./
She loves ma and she make I satisfie. oh Jah!/
To love her I will make a sacrifice. oh Jah!/
To keep her in my life/

Love how she kiss how she cares/
the passionate way how she put me to the test/
when it come to loving dis ya empress a the best/
I don´t need no witness I confess/
every night I pray that she´ll never leave me lonely/
Always pon the road and me know that it nuh easy/
express to her that she a my one and only/
Future will be bright. mother of my baby/

Give thanks fi dis ya empress ina me life oh jah./
She loves ma and she make I satisfie. oh Jah!/
To love her I will make a sacrifice. oh Jah!/
To keep her in my life/

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irie! March 09, 2005 10:32 AM

Thank you for the invite Andy, I have been reading a few different topics speak truths & the posts are really interesting, worth reading.So I joined.. I have kept my distance from Rasta culture since my teens. I was brought up in London & worked & socailsed sometimes around Rastamen. I found some of there views difficult to deal with relating to women. It made me angry that they had these dark age feelings surrounding woman & teachings the bible had inflickted upon them. I listen to reggae & Bob was the first Rastaman to enter my life & remain!!I have never held it against someone for what they believe. Rastaman has always been attracted to me & the lioness HATE it with a passion, in fact I have not connected with a 'Rasta woman' as a friend they usually just growl.Thinking another woman may take her male & thats all they seem to see! Because of the their beliefs I have never made love with a Rastaman, I might find there physical being aluring but I havent found a 'king' that I liked the mind of! When a woman is at her moon time 'period' she is unlikely to conceive, there is more on this & the magic of making love at this sacred time in my group. Natures blend. If you feel it resonates with you please join, Andy I will send you an invite. The subject came up when a question was asked for the best herb to use as birth control. It explains the power in this sacred time for male & female & how you can use Tantra as the build up for a awesome sexual connextion. Try it Rasta men & women you might expand your mind ;O) *Hugs love & comfort are essential when your bleeding, massage especially ;O) I would be so devistated if anyone was neglectful or refused to touch me at this time in my cycle especially my son or lover. I know it's a different culture but there are non rasta males that apparently feel like that too. Luckly I havent been lovers with them!  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 March 09, 2005 1:21 PM

Custom Invite Link: This is an invite into the group Natures Blend, if you feel what is written after you click resonates with you then please apply to join. It is locked because the bann on herbs is spreading so people who really believe in the earths sources & mysteries need only apply!  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
anonymous jah bless! March 09, 2005 2:30 PM

give thanks & praises!!   welcome to our group & much respect for your input and Nature's Blend group - keep spreading positivity & knowledge.....

each one, teach one

bless up!

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 March 09, 2005 7:28 PM

It explains the power in this sacred time for male & female & how you can use Tantra as the build up for a

awesome sexual connextion..

remember dear sister... Tantra is not for a connection...

we have never been apart.....

tantra is all about "I"

much love & respect

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Ego & Tantra! March 10, 2005 2:48 AM

Ego is 'I' People working sexual tantric would be surely bringing there lover pleasure I see little 'I' or ego in in that... then again I do see where your coming from with your's like everything if you put a lable on it, it should fit in a box. ie.. Rastaman : Biblebashing, belittling woman,arrogant, always trying to catch a train to Zion! Tantra: For men to gain pleasure using woman in a slave type way.Sexual enlightenment thru woman. These statements are so bland,there is historical truths running thru them but the picture is much bigger... In a box they spell male ego.. 'I' To dispell out dated myths we need to delive deep into the sacred mysteries...the book binds, universe boutiful wisdoms from within frees us...Tantra for me is all about energy fields not only what the indian paintings show or the Karma Sutra. Connextion is on many levels,I was meaning energy vibration pulsating around you & another, building up to a point of spiritual unity, reading a persons aura.A journey together thru you soul not only your body...We not I... There is truth in your words we have never been your journey you have come far, many people in this world are lost & may need guidance, they see these black & white statements as 'truth' it loses them further until they discover they wernt lost at all.. we have never been apart ;O)  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 March 10, 2005 8:35 AM

"i" is the same as the Hindu concept of "one"

there is no ego involved in "I&I'   it means all is one...

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 March 10, 2005 8:37 AM

i am an Ayurveda student & have studied & taught Tantra for the past 3 1/2 years...

you words are beautiful, but tantra is not about a connection between male & women...

it about the oneness with Brahman

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 March 10, 2005 9:03 AM

Ayurvedic medicine is something I have been interested in for years it doesnt mix well as a practice if you have family as I found it very much to do with indivdual needs.The dosha cooking side of things became too difficult as my son & ex partner at the time have a different dosha to balance to mine & it took up alot of time cooking I just gave in after a couple of months. My son is tri dosha so that was easy. You have rekindled my thoughts on trying again. We do not have practitioners around here all the information is from books, which is only good for the basics. I was going to study out in India about 4 years ago but it really didnt seem so practical with my life then. My friend went instead & I haven't heard from her since! I thought you ment the ego side of tantra when you mentioned 'I' not the oneness of I&I. You strike me as a person forever learning to teach...;O)  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
I couldn't resist March 10, 2005 12:15 PM

Boogie on reggae woman

I like to see you boogie
Right across the floor
I like to do it to you
Till you holla for more

I like to reggae
But you dance too fast for me
I'd like to make love to you
So you can make me scream

Boogie on reggae woman
What is wrong with me
Boogie on reggae woman
Baby can't you see

I'd like to see both of us
Fall deeply in love
I'd like to see you na...
Under the stars above
Yes I would

I'd like to see both of us
Fall deeply in love - yeah
I'd like to see you in the raw
Under the stars above

So boogie on reggae woman
What is wrong with you
Boogie on reggae woman
What you tryin' to do

Can I play? Can I play?

Boogie on reggae woman
What is wrong with me
Boogie on reggae woman
What you tryin' to do

Boogie on reggae woman
Let me do it to you
Boogie on reggae woman
What you tryin' to do

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